01.16.2015

Dionne Warwick EXCLUSIVELY Talks To The Hub About Family, Career Highlights, & Her New Album — while Funky Town Grooves Offers Classic Warwick

by Michael P. Coleman

Multi Grammy-winner Dionne Warwick has enjoyed more Billboard Top 100 singles than any female artist other than Aretha Franklin.  It's hard to believe that, after almost two decades as a solo artist, the legend almost quit the music business in the late 1970s to become a teacher.

In her 2010 autobiography My Life, As I See It, Warwick writes that music mogul Clive Davis talked her out of that and signed her to his burgeoning Arista Records. Warwick's first album on the label, 1979's Dionne, went platinum and yielded two Grammy-winning singles: "I'll Never Love This Way Again" and "Deja Vu".

More hit albums followed, including 1983's Heartbreaker with its international smash title track, and 1985's Friends which featured the year's best-selling single, the all-star collaboration "That's What Friends Are For".  Funky Town Grooves has begun releasing remastered, expanded editions of her Arista albums, and Warwick told me she's excited about her vintage projects being available again.

"Funky Town Grooves will probably introduce me to a lot of people who don't know who Dionne Warwick is," the singer told me.  "I always enjoy reaching new audiences."

Warwick will undoubtedly do that with the first three FTG reissues:  1980's No Night So Long, 1983's How Many Times Can We Say Goodbye?, and 1984's Finder Of Lost Loves.  While neither of the three were top sellers for Warwick, all are stunning examples of classic vocal pop music.

No Night So Long kicks off with the spirited "Easy Love" and features several of those soaring ballads for which Warwick became associated, including the title track, "When The World Falls Out Of Love", and "How You Once Loved Me".  Other album highlights include covers of Michael Jackson's "It's The Falling In Love" and Peabo Bryson's "Reaching For The Sky".  Another of the album's exceptional cuts is the shimmering "This Is What I've Wanted All My Life", recorded during the NNSL sessions and one of the rerelease's bonus selections.  It's anyone's guess as to why this track was left off of the album in 1980, as it's lyrically and melodically classic Warwick.

The Luther Vandross-produced "How Many Times Can We Say Goodbye?" is a strong contender for Warwick's best Arista studio album (and that's saying quite a lot).  Under Luther's direction, Warwick literally soars with "So Amazing" (Luther himself covered the song years later), "I Can Let Go Now", and a heart-stopping version of The Shirelles' "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?".  Vandross completely rearranged the song as he did with his own "A House Is Not A Home (ironically a Warwick original), and it features The Shirelles themselves on background vocals.

Another HMTCWSG highlight is "Got A Date", a rare Warwick uptempo romp that oddly stalled at radio when it was released as a single.  It features a draw dropping vocal from Warwick and one of the highest recorded notes of her recording career on the bridge.  "Got A Date" should have been a chart-topper for Warwick, as Luther's "Jump To It" had been for Aretha Franklin the year before.

Vandross told biographer Craig Seymour in 1983 that "Got A Date"'s failure on the charts was "...the biggest regret..." of his career, adding "It's my favorite piece - ever.  I get mad when I think of what happened or didn't happen to that song."  The new Funky Town Grooves reissue includes an incredible seven minute remix of the single, as one of its six bonus tracks.

The third of the FTG reissues, Finder Of Lost Loves, is presented in a two disc set and includes several never-before-released tracks, the stunning commercial version of the title duet with Glenn Jones, and the song's original incarnation, recorded with Vandross.  You can decide for yourself if Warwick was right to scrap the original and hire Jones.  (SPOILER ALERT: she was.)  Other FOLL highlights include the original version of Anita Baker's "No One In The World" and duets with Barry Manilow (the magnificent "Run To Me") and Stevie Wonder ("It's You" and "Weakness").

Finder Of Lost Loves also includes two more signature Warwick masterpieces, "Love Doesn't Live Here Anymore" and "You Made Me Want To Love Again."  On the former, Warwick displays her almost unparalleled gift for interpreting a lyric. Her pain is palpable as she sings the chorus:  "Gone are the dreams we share now / Our world's grown cold and bare now / The time has come to close the door / No, darling love doesn't live here anymore."  The song stands among Warwick's greatest vocal triumphs.

In addition to the FTG's reissues, Warwick is attracting new fans with her gorgeous new Feels So Good album, which offers refashioned duet versions of many of her classic hits, performed with contemporary artists like Usher, Ruben Studdard, and Mya.  Warwick allowed each of her collaborators to select the song they wanted to cover.  In a couple of cases, she was surprised by the songs they chose.

"When Ne-Yo decided that he wanted to do "A House Is Not A Home", I kinda asked "Do you really want to tackle THAT one?", Warwick told me with a laugh.  "Without any hesitation, he said he did.  I must say he brought his A game.  I'm so proud of that particular recording as a part of this fabulous new album."

Feels So Good also includes Dionne's granddaughter Cheyenne Elliott on the duet "Let There Be Love".  Warwick had trouble describing the experience of recording with Elliott.

"I don't think there are words for it," Warwick said. "It was one of those very special moments of my career, my life.  It was special when I've recorded with my son David, of course, and also when I've worked with my son Damon as producer of some of my projects, but to stand at a microphone with my grand baby!  I couldn't believe we were doing it."

During our chat, Warwick attributed many of her successes to her upbringing.  I asked her to tell me about the influence her grandfather had on her life and career, and advice she attributes to him in her autobiography: "If you can think it, you can do it."

"I heard those words many years ago, and applied them over the years to a multitude of things that I wanted to do," Warwick told me.  "I think of my grandfather and those words whenever I'm looking at a new project or a new challenge.  I don't think there's any point in making overtures to things that you really want to grasp and then let them go midstream.  I've never forgotten my grandfather's words."


Warwick's Feels So Good is available at iTunes.com and retail.

No Night So Long, How Many Times Can We Say Goodbye?, and Finder Of Lost Loves are available at funkytowngrooves.com.

Michael P. Coleman is a Sacramento-based freelance writer.  Get a Message To Michael at michaelpcoleman.com, via email at mikelsmindseye@me.com, or on Twitter: @ColemanMichaelP.  Click here for his sacculturalhub.com contributions.